FIBA Europe made international youth basketball important
It took 13 years after FIBA - in 1989 - split its operations into continental units for the organisation we know today as FIBA Europe to be created in 2002.
Within two years of existence they changed the face of youth
international basketball in Europe by allowing all member Federations to participate in a U16 European Championship final.
The two-year qualification system was replaced in 2004 with the concept of Division A and Division B championships. In 2005 the two-division system was also introduced for U18 and U20 competitions.
The 2004 U16 Championships became the stepping stone for many of today's international players. Many of the U16 players on display in 2004 have since won national titles, EuroLeague Women and EuroCup titles. A few of the players were involved in the Olympic Games in 2008 and others are in the squads for the 2012 Olympics.
Spain were the U16 champions in 2004 with Alba Torrens (in picture) scoring 25 points in the gold metal match against Serbia and Montenegro. Tamara Abalde and Laura Nicholls were also on the winning Spanish team. By 2008 Torrens represented Spain at the 2008 Olympics.
These three players were not the only players involved in U16 action that summer who participated at the 2008 Olympics.
In 2004 Elina Babkina and Baiba Eglite made their youth international débuts in Division B with Latvia and yet by 2008 they were part of the senior team at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
However back in 2004 FIBA Europe were unable to give the women's championship much coverage due to logistics.
The Division A championship was played out in four separate venues in Italy and unfortunately at no time the 16 teams were in one location.
Some of the star players of that tournament are full internationals today: Giorgia Sottana from Italy was the top scorer while Marija Vrsaljko (who is in the 2012 Croatian Olympic team) had the best shooting percentage.
Other players on display in 2004 who are now playing professional basketball are: Endéné Miyem and Ana Cata-Chitiga from France, Gaby Ocete and Laura Herrera from Spain, Sonja Petrovic and Jelena Milovanovic from Serbia, Nadezhda Grishaeva from Russia, Katerina Elhotova from the Czech Republic, Bahar Caglar from Turkey, Jaklin Zlatanova from Bulgaria, Agnieszka Skobel from Poland, Sara Leemans from Belgium.
The first Division B championship was actually two separate tournaments played in two countries: Estonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The winner from each competition won promotion.
Azania Stewart who played for England is a member of the 2012 Great Britain Olympic team while Aija Putnina from Latvia was the third member from the 2004 roster to make the Olympic team. Gintare Petronyte (right in picture) who also participated was voted the 2008 FIBA Europe Young player.
Helena Sverrisdóttir from Iceland was the shining star of the Division B event as the leader in a number of categories. Sverrisdóttir spent playing college hoops in the NCAA and is currently signed with Good Angels Kosice.
FIBA Europe have modified the format of the competition over the time and by 2012 the European Championships for U16 are events that all young players want to be involved in.
Although the U16 class of 2008 have not produced any Olympians yet, the 2012 generation can dream about playing in the 2016 Olympic Games.